Debunking Myths About Breastfeeding: 10 Little-Known Facts To Know About Breast Milk
There are many myths and misconceptions about breast milk and nursing a baby. From worries about breast size, to concerns about making enough milk, to confusion about how to start solids, here are some common breastfeeding myths.
There are so many benefits of breast milk for babies. However, many moms worry about how to start breastfeeding, producing enough milk, how certain foods will affect their milk supply, and how breast milk will impact their baby's immune system and overall health.
The good news is, many mothers are able to breastfeed successfully, even if they face challenges from time to time. With time and patience, and trust in the body's ability to produce breast milk for their baby, many parents are able to enjoy nursing their baby for months or even years!
1. Breast size equals breastfeeding success.
One of the most common myths about breastfeeding is that women with small breasts will have a harder time nursing their baby. It doesn't matter what size your breasts are; any breast size is able to produce breast milk.
The same can be said for larger breasts. Just because a woman has larger breasts, it doesn't mean she will be able to breastfeed with ease or have an overflow of milk production.
Your breasts grow and change during pregnancy to be able to feed your baby after they are born. Breast size has nothing to do with how much milk you produce, your baby's weight gain, or whether your baby will be able to successfully breastfeed.
2. You should stop breastfeeding when your baby turns one.
Did you know that you don't have to stop breastfeeding just because your baby turns one?
After your little one's first birthday, the benefits of having more milk are numerous. One of the biggest breastfeeding myths is that there are no benefits of extended (past one year) breastfeeding - but this couldn't be further from the truth!
A baby nursing past age one should be encouraged and celebrated, as long as it is mutually beneficial to the mother and the baby. Extended breastfeeding protects babies from a number of negative developmental and health issues, and there has been no proven psychological or developmental harm to infants who breastfeed past one year.
In fact, the average natural weaning age for human children is between two and seven years!
There are many benefits to breastfeeding past one year. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges new parents to breastfeed for at least the first 3-6 months of a baby's life, but the more milk your little one has, the more benefits they'll experience.
Breast milk promotes a healthy immune system, better social intelligence, nutrition, and disease prevention. When women are able to breastfeed past one year, they continue to decrease their risk of breast cancer and other types of cancers. Immune protection includes both the mother and her baby.
In a child's second year of life, breast milk can provide:
Nursing typically does not interfere with a toddler's ability to eat a diet full of solid food. Breast milk can be an excellent addition to a well-rounded diet full of nutritious meals. Toddlers usually continue to eat several meals a day, even if they also continue to breastfeed.
3. Breastfeeding is an effective form of birth control.
Many women think that they can't get pregnant if they are nursing. However, you absolutely can, and breastfeeding is not an adequate form of birth control. Nursing a baby can delay the return of your period after having a baby. It produces a hormone that prevents egg production and ovulation. However, it is a breastfeeding myth that breastfeeding mothers can't get pregnant.
Breastfeeding mothers who don't want to get pregnant should use other forms of birth control.
Using breastfeeding as a form of birth control requires very strict practices, including exclusive nursing all day and night with no food or water given to the baby. The baby must be under six months old, you can't use a breast pump to express milk, and your period can't have returned. Only under these circumstances is it even possible for breastfeeding to ward off pregnancy.
4. Breastfeeding moms have to cover up in public.
Breastfeeding moms do not necessarily need to cover up in public. No matter what scenario you are in, it is legal and normal for you to breastfeed your little one. Even if you're a new mom who is learning to care for your new baby, your little one should have access to as much milk as he desires, wherever he wants to eat.
Whether you're in a crowded restaurant, shopping for school supplies, or taking a walk at a local park, know that your baby can drink milk without needing you to cover up. While some moms opt for privacy or a nursing cover, it's not obligatory. Babies should have access to milk when they please.
5. Solid foods can replace breastfeeding.
Most babies naturally start wanting solid food sometime around 6-8 months of age. However, breast milk or formula should be the main nutrition that you feed your baby for their first year of life.
Solid foods are complementary foods meant to add to a baby's nutrition. Starting solids can help a baby have a balanced diet, but their main source of nutrition should still be breast milk (if you're a nursing mother).
As much as infants love to eat and explore new foods, breastfeeding makes them grow up healthy and develop properly. Milk should be their primary source of nutrition, and solid foods can complement breast milk, not replace it.
If you're starting solid foods and want to continue breastfeeding, it might be helpful to see a lactation specialist who can guide you through introducing solid food without impacting your milk production.
6. Seeing a lactation consultant means you've failed your breastfed baby.
It should be common for mothers to consult a lactation expert when they go about their breastfeeding journey. It is not a sign of failure to consult the services of a certified lactation consultant!
Lactation consultants can address a number of challenges and issues that come with breastfeeding, including how to adjust the mother's diet, how to prevent clogged milk ducts, how to increase breast milk production, how to ensure that you're making enough milk, how to deal with a temporary dip in milk supply, how to go about starting solid foods, how to go about nursing during pregnancy, and how to breastfeed if you've had breast surgery.
Lactation specialists often work in the comfort of client's homes, answering questions and providing hands-on guidance when it comes to common breastfeeding issues.
7. Stop nursing if breastfeeding hurts.
Many women experience nipple pain in the first few weeks of breastfeeding. However, it is a common breastfeeding myth that it is always painful. If you want to continue breastfeeding but experience pain beyond the first few weeks, it might be a good idea to enlist the services of a lactation consultant.
Breast changes and nipple pain is to be expected when a woman begins breastfeeding a baby. A letdown can feel uncomfortable in the early days of breastfeeding as well. If the baby doesn't latch right, this can also cause pain in the breast.
If breastfeeding hurts, it doesn't mean you need to stop breastfeeding. If new moms want to feed their baby that "liquid gold," they must have patience when it comes to their breastfeeding journey.
Sore nipples are common, and in some cases, a nipple shield provides welcome relief. A nipple shield can be especially helpful if a breastfeeding mom has flat nipples or inverted nipples. Eventually, babies grow and learn to latch successfully without the shield.
Many women are able to breastfeed successfully, even if they experience some breast pain in the beginning.
8. Breastfeeding babies make your breasts permanently saggy.
One common breastfeeding myth is that it will permanently change your body in a negative way.
If you are concerned about how breastfeeding will impact your body permanently, just remind yourself that human milk is the best, most nutritious thing you can offer your baby. Even if your breasts do change during the time you nurse your little one, do not forget about the lifelong impact human milk provides your precious baby. Breast milk can ward off ear infections, prevent sudden infant death syndrome, and protect babies from a number of illnesses and diseases throughout their lives! Your body is doing an amazing feat by protecting and nourishing your child.
Many women report that over time, their bodies return to "normal."
9. Drinking alcohol is off-limits when breastfeeding.
Does alcohol impact breastfed babies? Have you heard of the "pump and dump" method?
Although alcohol does pass through the breast milk to your baby, it is perfectly fine to have an occasional drink. Some women protect their baby by waiting to nurse for at least two hours (or wait longer) after having a drink. Alcohol enters the breast milk and then slowly decreases.
Alcoholic beverages might also reduce milk production or inhibit the mother's letdown.
Although many parents choose to stay away from alcoholic beverages while breastfeeding, it does not affect most babies when consumed in moderation. Lactation consultants don't really endorse the "pump and dump" method anymore.
10. Nursing is only possible for a baby's biological parent.
Did you know that people who are not the baby's biological parents might still be able to breastfeed?
It is possible for someone who is not the birth parent to establish a milk supply and feed an infant. Whether they make enough milk depends on a number of factors, but many people are able to establish at least some form of a milk supply.
There are several prescription medications that can be used to increase milk supply, even for non-gestational parents. Most medications that supposedly establish milk supply should be used in addition to establishing a good lactation routine like pumping, drinking plenty of fluids, and taking other supplements.
There are many breastfeeding myths out there, but don't let that stop you from having a wonderful breastfeeding journey.
Breastfeeding is a wonderful, natural process and an excellent way to nourish your baby so that they can grow and thrive. If you have any questions, be sure to ask your child's pediatrician about how to best proceed.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Kaitlyn Torrez
I’m Kaitlyn Torrez, from the San Francisco Bay Area. I live with my husband and two children, Roman and Logan. I’m a former preschool teacher, currently enjoying being a stay at home mom. I love all things writing, coffee, and chocolate. In my free time, I enjoy reading, blogging, and working out.